It’s hard not to like international travel. There is something about crossing a border that increases adrenaline and stimulates the brain. Each country has a unique ambiance, curious cuisine, breathtaking views and a unique culture. Whether it’s driving from Seattle to Vancouver, taking a cruise from Miami to the Caribbean, or flying from LA to Iceland, every trip has the potential to help us learn, love and grow. However, due to pandemic precautions, most of us have moved closer to home. And while many countries are still considered to be at high risk for transmission of COVID-19, other places have seen a sufficient drop in cases and an increase in vaccinations. There are around 100 countries that now accept travelers with US passports, and the list changes daily. If you’re fully vaccinated, free from COVID-19, and ready to endure more uncertainties than usual, now is the time to consider that trip you’ve been dreaming of during the lockdown.

Determining which countries are open to U.S. travelers, including their COVID-19 risk level and the rules on what is required for entry (and return to the United States) is as complicated as the math. The US State Department is a good place to start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides advice on international destinations. Check with the government of your intended destination. Remember that you will need proof of a COVID-19 PCR test to re-enter the United States (or proof that you have already had it).

There is no doubt that planning international travel is more stressful now than before the pandemic. But once you get to your destination, you might find less crowds and a welcoming tourist area. Here are some tips for planning your next international adventure.

Nick fox

1. Make plans early

There are fewer international flights than ever before, as many carriers downsized during the pandemic. Also, it can be more difficult to find flights that you can use reward points for. If possible, be flexible with your travel goal. An adventure off the beaten track might be a better option than a regular tourist destination.

2. Get informed before you go (and receive alerts after your arrival)

Enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Not only will they keep you informed of local situations that could impact your safety, but they will also be able to reach you in an emergency. The US Department of Consular Affairs Facebook page is also a great resource for local affairs.

3. Get informed

Find out about your destination. This means more than browsing the Michelin or Lonely Planet guides. If you are going to Jordan, start reading the Jordan Times. If you are going to London, The Times is a good place to start. There are English versions of newspapers around the world, from Peru and Pakistan to Jamaica and Japan.

4. Passport control

Most countries require that your passport not only be valid, but have a six month window before expiration. Most people can renew their US passports online.

5. Travel insurance

You can get insurance to cover everything from the cost of replacing lost baggage to having it removed by former special operations from your Mount Everest base camp. Travel insurance is also useful if you fall ill in a foreign country and need medical assistance. World Nomads is a favorite with international travelers as it offers low cost packages (under $ 100) to most international destinations. Global Rescue provides on-the-ground rescue, local medical assistance and a 24/7 hotline.

Advice for international travel: tailor-made tours
Marek Duransky

6. Tailor-made tours

Even if your travel habits rival those of Bear Grylls and Rick Steves, spending time with an expert will not only enrich your experience, but save you time, money and the potential of finding yourself in a dangerous situation. You may not need assistance for your entire trip, but consider booking a guide for your first day or two. The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has an excellent list of tour operators who can help you with everything from a self-guided trip to a local driver and personal guide.

7. Emotional rescue

Any trip can be stressful, but even more so during the pandemic. Everything from parking your car and checking security to collecting your luggage can produce anxiety. Plan flights early in the day for canceled or missed connections. Pack your bags early and remember that shopping opportunities may be different from your last trip abroad. Sign up for WhatsApp and Facetime so you can message and call for free to keep in touch with family and friends. There are plenty of resources online if you have homesickness or culture shock.

9. Medication matters

If you need medication, plan to bring enough for an additional two weeks in case your return trip is delayed due to quarantine, weather, an act of nature, or a national strike. Always take your pills with you in your hand luggage and check with the local embassy to make sure what you are taking is acceptable to cross borders. And don’t forget the masks and hand sanitizer.

10. Plan ahead

Things are happening. Stay in touch with local news and plan for the unexpected. Download at least one rideshare app available in your destination and pack enough cash to hail a cab. Make sure someone at home has a copy of your itinerary and shares your mutual expectations about when you will be in contact. If you are traveling between multiple countries, make sure you have the correct photos.

11. Print documents

Computers, cell phones, and smartwatches are great for navigation and information. But electronics get broken, lost or stolen, or fail when there is no power source. Traveling with a portable charger makes sense, but bring a hard copy of your itinerary, passport, vaccination record, and PCR test.

Costa Rica: Tips for international travel
Valerija Polakovska

12. Take it easy

Even if you are a professional athlete attending a Red Bull event, avoid taxing local search and rescue groups or hospitals. Mountain biking, cliff jumping, rock climbing, and backcountry travel are all fun, but pushing the limits not only affects you, but can also take a toll on an already overburdened medical system.

13. Don’t flex

Social media keeps us all connected, but enjoy your trip and post it when you get home. Avoid real-time posts because you don’t want the world to know that you are far from your home or apartment (addresses are easy to find online) or where you spend the night on your vacation . Remember, not everyone has the luxury of traveling. Instead of just bragging about your travel loot, work on educating and uplifting to keep those opportunities open.

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